The classical music of Andalusia originated in the Emirate of Córdoba (Al-Andalus) in the 9th century and may owe its origins to Ziryab. It reached North Africa via centuries of cultural exchange, as well as via resettlement of populations as a result of the Christian reconquest of Spain in the Middle Ages. Different schools of Arab-Andalucian music arose in the regional population centres of the Maghrib, which is reflected today. In most of Morocco the music is known as âla, while in Oujda in eastern Morocco and Tlemcen in Algeria, a form known as gharnati has developed. In Algiers it is known as san'a, while in Constantine (Algeria), as well as in Tunisia and Libya, this music forms the major part of what is known as mal'uf. The music of the eastern part of the Maghrib also incorporates Ottoman influences, which that of Morocco and Tlemcen does not. The basis of all of these kinds of Arab-Andalucian music performed in North Africa today is the suite known as the nûbâ (plural: nûbât). Each nûbâ is based around a particular mode, and the number of surviving nûbât varies according to region.
In Morocco a nûbâ is divided into five parts called mîzân, each with a corresponding rhythm (iqa'a):
1. basît (6/4)
2. qâ'im wa nusf (8/4)
3. btâyhî (8/4)
4. darj (4/4)
5. quddâm (3/4 or 6/8)
A full nûbâ performance usually lasts from five to nine hours, though this is rarely seen today. Often only one mîzân from any given nûbâ is performed at a time. Each mîzân begins with instrumental preludes called either tûshiya, m'shaliya or bughya, followed by as many as twenty songs (sana'i) in the entire mîzân.
There were originally 26 nûbât in Moroccan âla, but today’s repertoire uses just eleven of these:
1. Ramal al-Mâya
4. Rasd al-Dhîl
7. Gharîbat al-Husayn
8. Hijâz al-Kebîr
9. Hijâz al-Msharqî
10. 'Iraq al-'Ajam
Each nûbâ is named according to its principal mode or tab' (plural: tubu'), although secondary modes are also used within a nûbâ.
In Algeria the nûbâ is theoretically divided into two parts. The first part consists of three vocal and instrumental sections – the msaddar, btâyhî and darj – with a slow but gradually increasing tempo. The second part usually consists of two vocal sections – the insirâf and khlâs. These five main components are interspersed with instrumental interludes (kursî), improvisational vocal and instrumental interludes (istikhbâr), or a piece from a lighter song genre (inqilâb). The entire nûbâ is often preceded by an unmetered instrumental prelude (mshâliya) and a metered instrumental overture (tûshiya) that introduce some of the melodic themes associated with the particular tab' of the nûbâ.
The 12 nûbâ of Algiers are classified according to their principal tubu' as follows:
5. Ramal al-Mâya
11. Rasd al-Dhîl
There are also four other tubu' – Jârka, Muwwâl, Ghrîbat al-Hsîn, 'Irâq – used in the various components of the above nûbât.
The mal'uf of Tunisia encompasses the nûbât as well as several other types of secular and sacred music. The form of the Tunisian nûbâ was established by Muhammad Al-Rashid (d. 1759), and the 12 nûbât are traditionally played in a fixed order:
6. Ramal al-Mâya
9. Rasd al-Dhîl
11. Asbahân Mazmûm
The components of the nûbâ consist of the following vocal and instrumental pieces:
1. Istiftâh: an unmetered piece in the principal tab’ of the nûbâ, which sets out the main charateristics of the mode.
2. Msaddar: an instrumental overture.
3. Abyat: verses preceded by a short musical prelude in a fast tempo.
4. Btâyhî: verses sung to a rhythm of the same name, and usually preceded by a brief instrumental prelude in slow or fast rhythm.
5. Tûshiya: a musical interlude normally played in the tab’ of the following nûbâ.
6. Barawîl: songs in a fast tempo.
INEDIT: Anthologie "al-âla" - Musique Andaluci-Marocaine (CD booklets).
INEDIT: Tunisia - Anthologie du mâlûf (CD booklets).
INEDIT: Musique arabo-andalouse d'Alger (CD booklets).